Chilblains Explained

Chilblains Explained

What are chilblains?

Chilblains, also known as pernio, are small, inflamed areas on the skin that develop in response to cold weather. They are most common on the fingers, toes, ears, and nose, which are areas that are more susceptible to getting cold.

What causes chilblains?

When the skin is exposed to cold temperatures, the small blood vessels in the area constrict to conserve heat. When the skin warms up again, these blood vessels can dilate too quickly, causing leakage of fluid into the surrounding tissues. This leakage leads to inflammation, swelling, and itching.

What are the symptoms of chilblains?

Common symptoms of chilblains include:

  • Red, swollen patches of skin.
  • Itching, burning, or tingling sensation.
  • Blisters.
  • Pain.
  • The skin may feel cold to the touch.

How are chilblains treated?

Chilblains usually resolve on their own within a few weeks. However, there are some things you can do to relieve symptoms and promote healing:

  • Warm up gradually: Avoid sudden changes in temperature. Warm up slowly after being in the cold. 
  • Dress warmly: Wear warm clothing and gloves to protect your skin from the cold. 
  • Elevate the affected area: This will help to reduce swelling. 
  • Apply over-the-counter medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers and creams containing capsaicin may help to relieve pain and itching. 
  • Soak in warm water: Soaking the affected area in warm water for 15- 20 minutes may help to reduce inflammation and pain. 
  • Avoid smoking: Smoking can worsen chilblains. 
  • Seek Help: If your chilblains are severe, do not improve with home treatment, or you have a weakened immune system, see a doctor. They may prescribe medication, such as corticosteroids, to help reduce inflammation.

There are a few things you can do to prevent chilblains:

  • Dress warmly: Wear warm clothing and gloves when it is cold outside. 
  • Protect your extremities: Pay special attention to your fingers, toes, ears, and nose. 
  • Warm up gradually: Avoid sudden changes in temperature. 
  • Keep your skin healthy: Dry your skin thoroughly after being in the cold, and use a moisturizer to keep it hydrated. 
  • Quit smoking: Smoking can worsen chilblains.

Dr Paul "Too Chill" Betschart
The Foot Book Doctor
Healthy Feet Happy Life

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